Ripple effect continues after Rwanda’s decision to double gorilla tracking fees

UGANDA’S AUTO ISSUES STARK WARNING TO UGANDA WILDLIFE AUTHORITY NOT TO FOLLOW SUIT

(Posted 09th May 2017)

We condemn in the sharpest terms the irresponsible behaviour of RDB to raise tariffs without notice. This is totally unacceptable in this day and age. We also find RDB lacking any team spirit because they completely failed their duty to consult with the private sector. This is a text book example of institutional arrogance and ignorance and the way the decision was published shows also a high degree of incompetence‘ words verbatim repeated by a regular source from Kampala who blew his cool over the refusal by RDB to even discuss delaying the measure and giving several months notice to safari operators.
The same individual whose company has regularly chosen the Rwandan Parc de Volcanoes over Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park when selling gorilla safaris, also said that while prebooked and prepaid business will be concluded with Rwanda there will be no new bookings from his company as he was not prepared to ‘… support the greed of these people who hide behind conservation babble‘.

The Association of Uganda Tour Operators earlier today also published a statement which when compared to the clarification received from RDB last night at 21.14 hrs reads like a notice to end the hitherto close friendship and partnership with Rwanda:

Sources from Kigali who tried to rubbish this correspondent’s contention that the Ugandan tourism industry was celebrating their sudden windfall also had to eat their words as a major shift in enquiries is already noticeable in the space of just three days with Ugandan companies now getting snowed under booking requests of overseas companies also bitterly disappointed and upset by the Rwandan action.

As mentioned did RDB last night send out a statement, produced below in full for readers to as usual to make up their own mind but which is in stark contrast with the statement by RTTA, the Rwanda Tour and Travel Association as much as it differs from the AUTO letter:

My name is Christine Amira and I am glad to e-meet quite a number you. I am writing to you on behalf of RDB communications, Maurice from the Country Branding team also copied in this email.

You are all aware of the revised gorilla trekking permits and the concerns/ questions of the public. We would like to address the issues at hand and at this time seek your support in engaging the public to understand that the revised tariffs are all in favour of the Rwandan population & the country at large.

A few key reasons as to why the tariffs were revised are in relation to conservation, as Rwanda is a country embedded in sustainable development.

Below are the key messages/ reasons for the increment and we will appreciate your support in spreading them across. However, don’t hesitate to contact us incase you need any clarification, we would like to engage in the discussion for the best of everyone.

a. Revenue sharing

#RwandaTourism revenue sharing policy has alleviated communities around #Rwanda’s parks from poverty & improved their general livelihood

Since 2010, over 600 community projects of which some are in the process of completion have been successfully launched around #Rwanda’s park

#Rwanda is a country embedded on #conservation & policy implementations by @RwandaGov & @RDBRwanda are key in maintaining biodiversity

To protect #biodiversity in #Rwanda we must first address the issues that caused its deprivation in the past, revenue sharing is imperative

#RwandaTourism revenue sharing policy reduces human-animal conflict around parks & ensures #sustainableconservation

The revised tariffs will quadruple the tourism revenue sharing for community projects around #Rwanda’s NP & ensure long term sustainability

The tourism revenue sharing policy benefits all the communities living around the main national parks in #Rwanda & not only #Volcanoes NP

b. Boost tourism potential

#RwandaTourism industry is on the move to expand & diversify tourism products & services for long-term economic returns & sustainability

#Rwanda is focused on positioning itself as a hub for luxury tourism in the region, offering high-end products to locals & intl visitors

#Kinigi information centre will boost the tourist’s gorilla trekking experience & activities around #Volcanoes NP #RwandaTourism

#MountainGorillas are a symbol of #RwandaTourism & through these magnificent species the country has realized increased tourism receipts

Our focus on high end tourism is more aligned to improved quality #RwandaTourism

#TemberuRwanda campaign is meant to encourage domestic tourism & other strategies and promotions will be used to encourage gorilla trekking among locals

#Gorillas are an endangered species on high demand, as #Rwanda gets a stronger global #tourism brand, more tourists desire to visit

#RwandaTourism is on a good track in positioning the country as a hub for luxury tourism, One and Only soon opens in @NyungwePark

The revised #gorilla trekking permits means more direct share for communities living in surroundings of #Rwanda’s parks #RwandaTourism

c. Conservation

#ReturnOfLions & #ReturnOfRhinos go far in giving a picture of #Rwanda’s #conservation vision, achievable through public support

#RwandaTourism is popular for #conservation success of the #mountaingorillas, accounts 62% of species in Virunga Massif

#Conservation success can only be realized if our #tourism industry consistently positions itself to expand and thrive #RwandaTourism

If #conservation wins and so does #RwandaTourism! Our goal is to protect biodiversity for future generations

The increased #gorilla trekking tariffs will reduce the pressure on gorillas and the eco-system in the long-term #RwandaTourism

#Conservation aspects were considered with the revised tariffs to ensure low volume leading to low impact on the gorilla eco-system

As #Rwandans we should all own the #gorilla tracking experience and support #conservation efforts.

d. Policy Implementation

Policy by Government institutions are consistently implemented in the interest of #Rwandans & the reviewed gorilla permit also applies.

The renewed #gorilla permit tariffs are not entirely rigid, discounts apply for domestic tourists & #MICE delegates

#RwandaTourism through the revised tariffs will be able to expand the tourist’s experience around #Volcanoes NP

Thank you very much & apologies for the really long email.

Warm Regards,

Christine Amira.

Those with dissenting views from Kigali, and there were dozens of comments received from Rwandan operators on condition of anonymity – in itself an indicator that not all is well – immediately shot down several parts of the statement in the proverbial flames when they pointed out to this correspondent that

1) If Rwandan citizens are now forced to pay the same amount as overseas tourists, RDB should not talk about benefits for local people as hardly anyone but the richest can afford a fee of 1.500 US Dollars – much more than the average income of Rwandans in 2015. TemberuRwanda is therefore trampled into the dust as far as gorilla tourism for locals is concerned.

2) The no notice implementation causes breach of contract situations with overseas tour agents who have published the cost of Rwanda safaris a year in advance and many of whom now will have to absorb the tariff increases

3) It has already upset our tourism partners in East Africa as it seems to suggest that only Rwanda has sustainable policies in place whereas others like Uganda or Kenya or Tanzania by implication does not, which spells bad for future cooperation.

4) Highlighting revenue sharing is on thin ice as Uganda’s revenue share is 20 percent of the gate receipts whereas Rwanda’s was 5 percent until last Sunday when it was raised to 10 percent, still only half of what Uganda Wildlife Authority shares with communities neighbouring their parks.

5) The repeated loud mention of quality and high end tourism also upset our regional partners as it makes them look like mass tourism destinations, which is not the case as far as the safari segment is concerned.

6) Ignoring the private sector in such a way is a deliberate affront and the word partnership should be struck from all future dealings with RDB who have established themselves as our masters, dictating terms at will without even considering the option of stretching the increase over some time and giving a six months notice for the first increase.

It must be pointed out, given the hostile reaction from a handful of individuals in Kigali to earlier articles written here on this subject, that this blog has always given a platform for those who are not heard elsewhere and the comments made were taken from dozens received, all with the same tenor.
This blog has given Rwanda high profile visibility and exposure for many years, at times to the point of being accused by Ugandan readers that the author has been ‘bought‘ by Rwanda, as laughable as that may sound.
That alone has earned me the right to publish this series of articles as I patently disagree with the decision taken and as much as that was the right of RDB is it as much my right to offer dissenting views.

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